The Republicans no doubt are gearing up to pummel Vice President Gore with musty allegations of wrongdoing during the 1996 campaign, hauling out pictures of Gore and Buddhist monks and so forth.

And the GOP clearly will resurrect Gore's famous "no controlling legal authority" defense and that his fund-raising telephone calls from the White House were legit because they were for "soft money," which could be fine, and not "hard money," which would be a no-no.

Attorney General Janet Reno consistently cleared Gore of any intent to violate campaign laws. The trickiest moment came when Gore's office voluntarily turned over an aide's notes from a Democratic National Committee budget meeting that Gore attended in November 1995 that clearly showed that both soft and hard money were to be raised. Republicans claimed the notes clearly showed Gore violated the law and then lied about it.

But recently released FBI notes of an Aug. 5, 1998, interview with Gore show he has an insurmountable defense against any Republican attack.

"The vice president concluded by saying that [former deputy chief of staff David] Strauss is a truthful and diligent person," the agents recounted. "If he took those notes at the 11/21/95 meeting, the vice president would not dispute that what is reflected in the notes was said at that meeting. Vice President Gore simply did not hear those things said."

How is this possible? "Vice President Gore advised that normally at these meetings he sat next to the president," the notes said, "and it was not uncommon for them to consult while a meeting was going on. It was also not unusual for the vice president to be pulled outside during a meeting by one of his staff members, and that he might even leave the meeting."

Then the airtight alibi: "The vice president also observed that he drank a lot of iced tea during meetings, which could have necessitated a restroom break."

Ah, the unimpeachable Nestea Defense!

But No Job Recommendations, Please

Remember that cheap slam at President Clinton that he always rewards his enemies but never repays his friends? Cheap and, as it turns out, utterly false. Note the attendance list at the Gala New Year's Eve dinner at the White House.

Among the many Hollywood glitterati we find none other than Walter Kaye, who is listed as a "former civilian aide to the secretary of the Army." But of course he's much better known as a huge Democratic contributor from New York whose greatest claim to fame is that he got Monica S. Lewinsky her internship at the White House.

Some friends can't be forgotten.

N.Y. Rep. With Dreams ISO Spokesman

Ever on the lookout for more useful work, we noticed a want ad in The Washington Post the day after Christmas for a press secretary and speech writer that some "Leading NY Republican Congressman" needed "immediately." "Natl. Media Exposure is Primary Objective."

Hmmm. Sounds promising. So who might have placed this ad? Doesn't say, but there is a fax number listed. Maybe that's in the House directory?

Well, well. None other than Rep. Rick A. Lazio (R-N.Y.). And why would Lazio have placed the ad? Isn't he out of the New York Senate race?

Not exactly, his office tells us. He hasn't made a final announcement either way. Neither, for that matter, has New York Mayor Rudoph W. Giuliani.

Moving On

Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, the longest-ever head of the Office of Justice Programs, is leaving at the end of February after more than five years in the job. Robinson, a longtime leader in criminal justice matters, is going to travel and write.

Donald Erbach, formerly head of delegate selection for the Gore campaign--who declined to move to Nashville--and formerly political director for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has moved to the Federal Communications Commission to be senior adviser for legislative and intergovernmental affairs for FCC Chairman William Kennard. Erbach also is the soon-to-be husband of White House scheduler Stephanie Streett.

Bustamante Named to Census Panel

California Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante, the nation's highest-ranking Latino elected official, has been named to the Census Monitoring Board, replacing Tony Coelho, who left last year for the Gore campaign. The appointment to the eight-member board, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, is good until Sept. 30, 2001.

Catching Up . . .

Diane Ravitch, an education adviser to Gov. George W. Bush's campaign for the presidential nomination and former assistant secretary of education under Bush's father, has told folks she's resigned from the campaign in protest after Bush said he would not meet with the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay party members.